As I’m sure most of you do, I live a pampered life.
I rise at noon and summon my lady-in-waiting to attend to my grooming needs. While my personal assistant pays the household bills from my vast and endless checking account, the chef whips up a caviar omelet in the gourmet kitchen of my mansion.
If you believe that, I’m a better fiction writer than I thought.
The sad fact is that most authors have the same money and job woes as everyone else. Most of us balance day jobs and writing and family and
sex toy parties and household demands. There’s inevitable overlap between obligations and plenty of moments when you freak the hell out because you can’t possibly do it all.
Not that I’d know anything about that.
I’ve come up with a few strategies for when I’m way beyond trying to keep my head above water and have settled for breathing through a cocktail straw from the bottom of the ocean.
Write fast or forget
My brain has a limited capacity for remembering things, and when I’m bombarded by a million tasks at once, it’s easy for good ideas to start leaking out my ears. While I try to keep a separation between my day job in marketing/public relations and my life as an author, it’s inevitable some of the ideas hitting me in the middle of the workday will pertain to the job I don’t happen to be doing at that moment.
I’ve learned to keep an email document open and addressed to myself either at the day job or at home. When I’m struck with a good plot idea in the middle of crafting a press release at the day job, I jot a fast note in the email and get right back to work. Likewise, if I’m at home editing a manuscript and an idea sneaks up on me for a media pitch at the day job, I make a note in the email addressed to my work account. At the end of the day, I hit “send” and know the tasks and ideas are preserved for when I’m in the right environment to do something about it.
Ask for help
I’ll admit it – I suck at this one. I’d generally rather remove my own kidney with a felt pen than admit I can’t do everything myself, but there are times I just have to pick up that Sharpie and be done with it. I hit a breaking point yesterday where I realized that if I truly intended to keep up with editing, writing, blogging, yard work, divorce proceedings, day job tasks, and household responsibilities, I would have to give up both eating and sleeping.
I finally cried uncle and asked my parents for help checking references on a potential housemate to replace one moving out at the end of the college term. Not only were Mom and Dad happy to help, but I think they secretly enjoyed playing private investigator. While my mother stalked the young prospect online, my father called everyone from his high school guidance counselor to his cardiologist. The kid got the all-clear, and my parents got the reassurance of knowing my new housemate is unlikely to dress up in my underwear and stab me with a letter opener in the middle of the night.
Most importantly, I gained a few hours I desperately needed to make a dent in my workday.
Timing is everything
I’ve experimented a lot with finding balance in my schedule, and I’ve learned a few things about what works for me. Blogging is a huge time commitment at this point in my career, between daily posts here and weekly posts at The Debutante Ball and the day job. I’ve tried getting a jump on things by pre-writing a week’s worth of posts and scheduling them to go up at different times. This works great for plenty of bloggers, but it’s not the best method for me. Large chunks of time are precious and sacred, and when I get one, it’s best used for something meaty like editing a manuscript or writing new chapters.
There are evenings when I drag my butt home from the day job with just enough energy to lie down in front of the fridge and open my mouth hoping something edible falls in. After that, I usually have the free time and mental capacity to tackle a smaller, bite-sized task like a blog post or an interview. That means weeknights tend to be my best times for maximum productivity on those smaller tasks. Knowing this about myself, I can manage my schedule in ways that allow me to keep weeknights open for blog posts while preserving big chunks of time on weekends for tackling bigger writing projects.
Do you have any tips you use for multitasking or budgeting your time between “writing life” and “real life?” Please share!
We could all use the help.